Brief Overview of the Development of Country Knolls
In the summer of 1964, the area that now comprises Country Knolls was vast open space. Beyond Ushers Road heading north, lushly wooded countryside, punctuated by rolling knolls and occasional small streams dominated the landscape. Towards Raylinski Road the land opened up and was cleared for farming. The Adirondack Northway had been open up to Exit 9 since December 1959; it was not opened up to Exit 10 until November 1961.
A small airstrip known on maps as Jewett Field was located in the vicinity of Burning Bush Boulevard. The “runway” was in the vicinity of the present day basketball court by the pool. A couple of flimsy hangars stood in the vicinity of where the clubhouse is now. The structure we came to know as “the hangar” (on the corner of Burning Bush Boulevard) was, in reality, never a hangar for airplanes, but rather a structure used by Martin Jewett to store his trucks used in his sand mining business. Mining molding sand was a popular enterprise back then. The land where Country Knolls stands was famous for its Albany Glacial sand. The hamlet of Jonesville was the population center of what was truly a rural area.
The land upon which Country Knolls was to be built was divided into roughly five separate parcels. Landowners included Martin Jewett, Thomas Oil Company, Gilbert Mauer, Casimir Raylinski and John Bellott. They were agreeable to selling their land to Robert Van Patten. The land was valued at about $500 per acre, but Van Patten paid the landowners $750-$1,000 an acre, payable over a ten-year period without interest. The landscape and rural nature of the community was about to be changed forever.
On July 15, 1964, Section 1 of Country Knolls Estates was given final approval by the Town of Clifton Park Planning Board. Construction commenced immediately.
The original section of Country Knolls is located off Ushers Road and consists of fifty homes on Ridge Lane, Manor Court, Hillcrest Drive and Meridian Lane. The houses offered were essentially the five basic Van Patten styles that, by 1964, had been built for four years down at Clifton Knolls. However, to entice would-be buyers to move “all the way” to Exit 10, Van Patten offered early buyers a $500 price reduction from the Clifton Knolls price. These five styles were to dominate the landscape of Country Knolls. They consisted of two colonials and three ranches. They ranged in price from the low to upper 20’s. They were all original designs.
Section by section, Country Knolls was built and slowly began to expand to the north and northeast. A model home was built at 182 Wood Dale Drive at the corner of Ushers Road. The swimming pool was constructed in 1968, and sales took off, reaching a rate of about 200 homes a year. The two “duplexes” at the beginning of Burning Bush Boulevard were built to temporarily house families moving in when their homes were not quite done.
In those days, virtually all phases of construction were handled by the Van Patten organization. The only parts sub-contracted out were the driveways (which were put in by King Paving), and the foundations, with footings hand dug by Sonny Van Wormer and his brother. Plumbers, masons, electricians and carpenters all worked for Van Patten. Van Patten himself could be found quite often working right alongside his workers, which at busy times numbered over 200. In fact, by the mid-1960s, Van Patten was fabricating his own aluminum siding.
Houses would be built almost assembly line fashion, street by street. On certain streets, due to their desirable location, the houses would carry “premiums” of $2,500. Starting around 1968, the framing lumber for the houses was pre-cut in the newly constructed warehouse (across from the present day Van Patten Golf Course) in Elnora.The wood would then be trucked to the site and assembled. An individual by the name of Rocky Graziano (who still resides in Country Knolls) supervised the warehouse operation.
Virtually all mortgages were written by Schenectady Savings Band (now Northeast Savings), whose president at the time was a friend of Van Patten. All it took was a $100 deposit and a handshake. There were no written contracts. If the buyer didn’t like the house as built, the $100 would be refunded and the deal cancelled. If by the time the house was finished Van Patten came to dislike the buyer, he’d refuse to sell the house.
Specific crews who were dedicated to a particular style home and were led by a foreman working without blueprints handled framing. Oddly, Van Patten never named the homes, but would refer to them simply by their style. The ranches were called the 4-bedroom, the 3-bedroom or the raised ranch and were framed by crews led by Don Ward. The two colonials began to cause confusion, as they both had the same number of rooms. As result, these two homes soon each acquired the name of their framing foreman. Hank Graves was in charge of framing one, and this house was therefore referred to as the “Hank’s”. Stan Marrick was the foreman in charge of the other colonial, thus the “Stan’s” was born. It was only years later that sales agents attached more formalized names to these homes. The Hank’s became the Hanover, the Stan’s became the Standish, the 4-bedroom ranch became the Executive Ranch while the 3-bedroom became the Top-Half (it was essentially the top half of the raised ranch). The Raised Ranch never acquired a formal name.
By 1972, eight years after construction began, almost 900 homes had been constructed in the Clifton Park portion of Country Knolls including 136 homes in the separate “Longkill” section (1970), and 100 in the “Ashley” section (1971). Occasionally modifications would be made to the design of a particular style house. For example, around 1970, as a result of an ambitious homeowner named Phil Lecroix adding a porch to the front of his Stans on Shawdow Wood Way, Van Patten followed suit, lowering the roofline at the same time. The “Top-Half” ranch went through three different facades. There were also variations of particular models, such as the “Short” or smaller Stans and raised ranch, as well as a 6-bedroom deluxe Stans, which was about a $4,000 option. You could also order, if there was sufficient space on your lot, a triple garage Hanover, or a side entry 2-car garage. The raised ranch would eventually be phased out by Van Patten, but the early 1970s saw the addition of two new models: the Saratoga and the Saratoga Deluxe, two colonials somewhat smaller than the Stans.
Van Patten filed plans with the Town of Malta to extend Country Knolls into that town. Approval was granted, and by April of 1972 the first 30 Malta homes went on the market. They were located on Garrison Lane, Walden Glen, and Village View Bluff. A Hanover now cost $44,900 while a Stans went for $40,900. Ranches ranged from $34,500-$38,500.
The Malta section carried an official name of Country Knolls North. As it eventually merged with the rest of Country Knolls the “north” designation slowly faded and the entire development was simply known as Country Knolls. Colored siding eventually became an option in the Malta section.
By 1974 almost 300 homes had been completed in Malta and Country Knolls was largely completed. Van Patten shifted his attention to the newly approved Country Knolls South development off Plank Road. Construction in Country Knolls soon ceased for a period of 14 years.
There’s no such town as “Ballston Lake”
Over the years, a number of Country Knolls residents, primarily newcomers, but sometimes long term ones as well, have exhibited confusion over exactly where it is they reside. In an attempt to eliminate any confusion we offer the following information.
In New York State, the basic geographical/political subdivision is generally the town. There are some exceptions, namely the city or village. Unless you live within the borders of a duly incorporated city or village, you are a resident of a particular town. The town government has basic jurisdictional power within its borders. Sometimes, within towns, “hamlets” or neighborhoods are identified. Jonesville, Elnora, and Vischer’s Ferry are some local hamlets. Hamlets have no jurisdictional or political identity, but are merely names affixed to a neighborhood.
All houses in Country Knolls have Ballston Lake as their mailing address. However, that is all it is, a mailing designation used by the U.S. Postal Service because our mail is delivered to the Ballston Lake Post Office. In fact, there is no town called Ballston Lake. There is a hamlet by that name on Route 146-A, and there is a local lake by that name. But there is no political entity named Ballston Lake, other than a zip code area.
Country Knolls residents live in either of two towns. Of the 1,216 homes, approximately 850 are located in the town of Clifton Park. The other 366 are located in the Town of Malta.
Homes located in the Malta section are serviced by the New York State Electric and Gas Company, and have underground utilities. Most homes in the Clifton Park section of Country Knolls have overhead power lines and are serviced by Niagara Mohawk.
Two fire companies service Country Knolls. Residents of the Clifton Park section are covered by the Jonesville Fire Department; residents of the Malta section are serviced by the Round Lake Fire Department.
To add to the confusion, two volunteer ambulance companies cover Country Knolls. Clifton Park residents are serviced by the Ballston Lake Emergency Squad and Malta residents are serviced by the Malta Ambulance Corp. Thank God that 911 is the only emergency number you need to remember!
New York Telephone, of course, adds a final confusing twist. Country Knolls residents of Clifton Park are listed under Jonesville, and have 877 prefixes in the telephone numbers. The Malta section bears the Round Lake designation and telephone numbers have the 899 prefix.